Tuesday May 22, 2018
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Why BBC’s documentary ‘India’s Daughter’ is not a usual case of artistic freedom

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By Ishan Kukerti

The ghost of 2012 Delhi Gang rape is here to haunt the nation again, making people cringe and boil with a sense of angst at the same time.

The government’s decision to put a restrain on the documentary is hardly a surprise but not totally unjustified. The state has played its part, and done that pretty fine. Although the case is pending in Supreme Court, out of the six accused, four are on a death row, one has committed suicide and one is in juvenile prison. For the government, the film is giving fuel to a fire and it has put it out the best way it could, within its capability.

The Justice Verma Report and the subsequent Criminal Law Amendment Ordinance 2013 are proof that the problem lies not with the state but the society. When a red faced Rajnath Singh says that the government is going to take action against BBC, then he is talking more as a member of a shamed society whose shortcomings are being rubbed into the face, than a statesman who is on a banning binge.

Freedom of speech, really?

This is not a usual case of freedom of speech or artistic freedom. Rape is a very sensitive issue and can’t be dealt like any other issue under the umbrella term, Freedom of Speech. The point is, will the film bring a change, serve a purpose?

There have been a lot of documentaries and films about the increasing rape culture in India along with other pressing issues relating to women in the past which have come and gone without occupying any substantial space in the media or people`s thought processes. None has resulted in the decline of rape cases or even the initiation of a dialogue at the ground level. Sex is still a taboo in India and what is required is a need to start a dialogue, free and meaningful.

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The Big Sister calls

The buzz created around India`s Daughter is majorly because it’s a BBC production and can be considered as a third person`s perspective. But has Leslee Udwin done justice to the subject of a universal social evil, by narrowing down her study on a specific yet in no way insignificant atrocity? Could her inquiry into the matter, as an international commentator been more holistic if she had taken a broader worldwide view, included the tussle between genders and an underlying primordial animal behavior in such cases, be it in Steubenville or France?  The documentary seems to be looking for a black cat in a room with lights turned off.  Or just saying that there is a black cat in the room.

According to a BBC survey, 230 women are raped in UK everyday and less than 1 in a 100 people gets convicted for the same. Yet Leslee Udwin`s decision to give voice to her sisters, so territorially and culturally removed from her seems weird, almost resembling a white burden of some sort. Maybe the brutality of the rape had attracted her imagination, which is well explored in the film. But isn’t this falling into the downward spiral of sensationalism in Journalism? Choosing an event more shocking than others ( yet in no way the most shocking, she could have found even more pathetic realities here or elsewhere) based on its content quality?

 

Solution, precipitate or nothing at all?   

But the BBC television director Danny Cohen has said that the film, ‘ Has a strong public interest of crating awareness about a global problem.’ and the inductive logic of the documentary gives some strong causes to rape as a phenomenon, like changing economy, patriarchy and social deprivation, but the solutions it brings to the discussion are quite generic and not unprecedented ‘ should bes’

like education and changing people`s mindset. More than a critical inquiry into an ignominious social evil, the film is a multi-narrative of the blood curding incident on December 16, 2012, which certainly makes the head hang but doesn’t bring anything concrete to the table. Shame has never deterred a criminal from a crime nor has repetition changed perceptions. The interview with one of the main accused in the case is proof enough how difficult it is to change someone`s view point. However the film has undoubtedly reinforced viewer`s opinion by giving it an authoritative BBC kind of voice.

Postscript

Will the Indian society or the world at large learn anything from the heart rendering reality of Nirbhaya? Will it make those who need to introspect, wait for a moment in their lives and think again?

The documentary is a definite reminder, a shocker, that the world has yet not forgotten about Nirbahya, even though most people have moved on to other issues, to different pandals at Jantar Mantar. In the end the relevance of the film can only be established on the basis of weather it incites frustration or leads to a constructive dialogue in the society.

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  • The documentary raises some very relevant questions undoubtedly, however, it probably failed to delve deeper about the malice called rape and sought to play to certain stereotypes( uneducated and poor men rape etc). If this documentary can raise awareness and expedite punishment of the rapists in question, its somewhat achieved what it set out to do.

  • The documentary raises some very relevant questions undoubtedly, however, it probably failed to delve deeper about the malice called rape and sought to play to certain stereotypes( uneducated and poor men rape etc). If this documentary can raise awareness and expedite punishment of the rapists in question, its somewhat achieved what it set out to do.

Next Story

Another Deadline Missed, No Draft Scheme on the Cauvery Dispute Till Now

On the expiry of the six-week deadline, the Centre sought extension of time till the completion of the electoral process in Karnata for submission of the Scheme.

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The court said that even if the Centre has not framed the scheme, Karnataka, under the Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal award, was obliged to make monthly releases to Tamil Nadu.
Supreme Court of India. Wikimedia commons

The Centre yet again failed to submit a draft Scheme on the Cauvery river water dispute before the Supreme Court on the ground that the Prime Minister and other ministers were campaigning in Karnataka, which Tamil Nadu flayed as “brazen partisanship”.

Seeking 10 more days to finalize the scheme, Attorney General K.K. Venugopal told Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud: “A draft scheme has been placed before the Cabinet. Because of Karnataka elections, the Prime Minister and all other Ministers are in Karnataka. Before that the Prime Minister was abroad (in China).”

It also sought response from the Centre on the steps taken by it since the pronouncing of the judgement for putting in place a scheme for implementing its order on the sharing of Cauvery water among Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry.
Parliament of India, wikimedia commons

The Centre’s submission was countered strongly by senior counsel Shekhar Naphade, appearing for Tamil Nadu, who said: “Sorry to say, the Central government is politicizing the issue. They are worried about their electoral fate in Karnataka. Election in Karnataka is on May 12 and somehow they don’t want to do it till then. We have enough of it. It is brazen partisanship of the Union of India. It is the end of co-operative federalism.”

The apex court in its February 16 judgement had directed the Centre to frame a Scheme within six months in accordance with the recommendation by the Cauvery River Water Tribunal for constitution of the Cauvery Management Board (CMB) and Cauvery Regulatory Authority (CRA), which Karnataka opposes strongly.

On the expiry of the six-week deadline, the Centre sought extension of time till the completion of the electoral process in Karnata for submission of the Scheme. Tamil Nadu filed a contempt petition against the Centre for failure to act within the deadline.

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During Thursday’s hearing, the court directed the Karnataka government to respond on how much of the four TMC of water it can release by month end. It also sought response from the Centre on the steps taken by it since the pronouncing of the judgement for putting in place a scheme for implementing its order on the sharing of Cauvery water among Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry.

In the course of the hearing, the court asked Karnataka to release 4 TMC of water by Monday.

The court said that even if the Centre has not framed the scheme, Karnataka, under the Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal award, was obliged to make monthly releases to Tamil Nadu.

The court directed the next hearing of the matter on Tuesday. (IANS)